Does anyone else feel like he’s a Mad Men character (Donald Draper/Roger Sterling) who showed up forty years late with ideas that are seventy years out of date? Every time I hear his name it’s like I’m in a meeting at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
Archive for the 'weirdness' Category
Modupe Labode, Assistant Professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, sent out a tweet yesterday: “Where are the analyses of Cliven Bundy & race from western and/or public historians? Was looking for my students and found v. little.” This anti-racist, feminist, fake cowgirl has been looking around too and found little beyond stuff on political blogs and websites.
Now that the work week is officially over, it looks like I just might have to start mucking out this nasty little stall, as it seems to have a great deal to do with the stuff I’ve written a lot about from the other end of North American history: guys, guns, whiteness, and gender. You know what those cheese-eating surrender monkeys say, mes amis: plus ca change. . . plus c’est le meme chose. Or to quote William Faulkner, a dude who doesn’t get a lot of airplay on this blog, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Although I am loathe to direct any more attention to this failed rancher who nevertheless has figured out how to whip up the rubes to his defense, I have a few things to say about Bundy’s recent bout of whistling Dixie. Continue Reading »
Here is the text of an email I received yesterday from my university. I honestly have no idea what it’s talking about. Does any part of this sound familiar to any of you? (Are there any palaeographers among you?)
This seminar will provide information about the university’s involvement in a national consortium that promises to enhance learning and teaching. The consortium, which includes several leading research universities, is exploring new directions in the use of instructional technologies. The intent is to facilitate and accelerate digital learning using the best integrated digital systems available that make it easy for faculty and enhance learning. The ecosystem consists of three components: a digital content repository/reflector, a service delivery platform, and a learning analytics service. The digital content repository/reflector will allow us to regain control over our digital learning objectives, allow faculty to choose to share/reuse digital content easily and seamlessly while preserving their digital rights. The service delivery platform is Canvas by Instructure, and has the characteristics of easier use by faculty and faster development of courses in it. The best learning analytics will be deployed and evolve apace as this area develops.
My first thought when I tried to read this email: was this written by one of those software robots that allegedly can fairly grade essays? Continue Reading »
My weekends are just too freakin’ short this semester, as I’m teaching two lecture classes on a MWF schedule. I honestly don’t mind teaching three days a week–I’m just frustrated that I don’t have a discretionary extra day to prep for Monday lectures, finish the neverending piles of grading, etc., let alone think for 20 minutes about how to get back to writing my book and figuring out what needs to happen archival research-wise before I make my base camp at the feet of the San Gabes. What’s with the MWF; can’t we get a MWR, or a MTR, or a TWF? Let the people who teach twice a week show up on Mondays and Fridays, as they’ll have three weekdays in-between without classes to TCB.
I know this is an academic blog, but you didn’t come here to see me b!tch about my mostly-imaginary and very temporary frustrations now, did you? So here are some random tidbits of THC, TBD (The Big Dog), and OMs on TDIS (Thank Dog It’s Saturday).
- Nepotism alert: Sometime in the next generation, every single American roots music recording artist will be either a member of the Wainwright-McGarrigle clan or of the Carter-Cash family clan. Seriously: are there no other worthy recording artists these days?
- Recreational reefer madness 2014! Earlier this week, some dip$hit in Denver ate some marijuana-infused candy and then shot his wife in the head and killed her in front of their three little kids. Of course, the media conversation in Denver is all about the marijuana edibles instead of the gun in the home. (Because that’s what all upper-middle class people need in their homes with three children in perfectly safe neighborhoods: easily accessible handguns!) You gotta love the politics of Colorado! Or just shake your head in wonder at the criminal stupidity of it all.
- Speaking of polidicks: I’m reading Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann (which, BTW, is pure political crackerjack, so delicious and so non-nutritious!), and I get to this paragraph: Continue Reading »
How’s that for irony? That’s what the Scholarly Advisory Council was told by the National Women’s History Museum’s President and CEO Joan Wages last month, according to former SAC member Sonya Michel. (You can see the NMWH’s announcement of the SAC’s walking papers here.) Michel, for those of you who don’t know her or her work, is an eminent scholar of gender, povery, and social welfare. She writes:
Last month’s dismissal of the scholars followed yet another example of a museum offering that embarrassed those of us who were trying to ensure that the institution was adhering to the highest standards in our field. In mid-March, the museum announced that it had launched a new online exhibit, “Pathways to Equality: The U.S. Women’s Rights Movement Emerges,” in conjunction with the Google Cultural Institute. Never informed that the exhibit was in the works, much less given an opportunity to vet it, we were appalled to discover that it was riddled with historical errors and inaccuracies. To pick just one example: Harriet Beecher Stowe was described as having been “born into a family of abolitionists” when, from the time of her birth through her young adulthood in the 1830s, her family actively opposed the abolitionist movement. “Pathways to Equality,” noted Kathryn Kish Sklar, the nineteenth-century specialist who pointed out the error, “could have been written by a middle-school student.”
Actually, if I were Sklar, I would have said that “a middle-school student who had consulted my prizewinning biography of Catherine Beecher could have put together a stronger online presentation.” Continue Reading »
Claire Potter (aka Tenured Radical) has an interesting post on her book blog about the assumptions that audiences make about the politics of historians based on their subject matter choices. She writes:
It isn’t uncommon that, when hearing about the research I have done on the history of anti-pornography feminism, audiences assume that I must be an anti-pornography feminist too.But do you know that? Do you even have the right to ask? Should I tell you?
My hope for this book is that you will be so compelled by my scholarship that you will never know my private views on this question.
I found the assumption really interesting, in that the vast, vast, vast majority of feminist intellectuals I know and have worked with are far from anti-porn feminists. Maybe my experiences are idiosyncratic, but in my experience academic feminists–much as most of us are disgusted by mainstream pornography–tend also to be First Amendment absolutists.
Potter continues with a meditation about identity politics and historical subject matter that is really worth the read:
Making assumptions about intellectuals based on superficial knowledge of their research interests is fairly common, but honestly? I think it happens to women, queers and people of color more often. I have a friend and colleague who is African-American, and writing a history of African-American conservative thought. That colleague is frequently assumed to be a conservative, much as I am often presumed, on the basis of nothing, to be an anti-pornography feminist. Continue Reading »
Did any of you see Tenured Radical’s post yesterday about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue 2014, “Happiness is a Cold, Plastic Doll?” This year it features Barbie on the cover, but the same old soft-core porn inside.
The point of TR’s post was to comment on the cultural significance of SI’s annual swimsuit issue. She noted her confusion when she first saw it in the 1970s, a decade in which porn was pushing into the mainstream, and Playboy had come to her campus to take some photos for “Girls of the Ivy League.” (This was 1978; recall that most Ivies hadn’t admitted women until the early 1970s. Welcome to campus, ladies!) TR writes that the swimsuit issue wasn’t porn, but yet it “wasn’t not porn, because everything was exposed except, as Monty Python would say, the ‘naughty bits.’” And yet–
The women were definitely chosen for their porny qualities. No model was included who didn’t have (as they used to say back in the 1970s) a “great rack,” or was not able to spread her legs, tip her butt up alluringly for potential rear entry, or cock her head back in that time-honored fashion that says, “Come and get it, Buster Brown.”
But like those who reject changing the name of the Washington Football Team, the swimsuit issue is spoken of as a tradition. Hence it is harmless, right? Wrong. The swimsuit issue is the porn that gets circulated in public, as if it were not really porn, which to me – makes it more sexist than the tabletop magazines that just say brightly: “we’re all about porn!” It’s the porn that gets delivered at the office, and it’s the porn that people think it’s ok for little boys to have, like the Charlie’s Angels and Farrah Fawcett posters that were so popular back in the day, because it helps them not grow up to be fags.
This is not what all but four or five of us commenting on the post learned. Instead, several porndogs wanted to turn the comments thread on this post into a strange personal porny fantasy involving fetishizing women’s bodies and insulting feminists and feminism at the same time. This is a fair summary of their threadjack: Continue Reading »
Have any of you been following the fracas over the temporary installation of Tony Matelli’s “Sleepwalker” statue on the Wellesley College campus? Lenore Skenazy published a faux-outraged commentary in the Wall Street Journal that summarizes the controversy and predictably makes fun of the campus feminists who object to the statue, rather than questioning the aesthetic judgment of the art museum director who decided to put up this crummy piece of art in the first place:
“Wellesley should be a safe place for their students, not a triggering one,” wrote one petition-signer, as if the statue actually made the campus dangerous. That’s a brand-new way of looking at—and trying to legislate—the world. So I checked in with Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, about the Wellesley panic. “It’s the idea that any kind of discomfort is a form of assault,” he noted.
Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete, since anything a person does, makes or says could be interpreted as abuse.
Lisa Fischman, director of the art museum on campus, wrote an open letter to students explaining that, to her, the Matelli statue depicts a vulnerable, pathetic stranger. (He’s sleepwalking in his skivvies in the snow, after all.) But to the petition-signers, her point of view is apparently not worthy. One wrote that Ms. Fischman’s letter, like the sculpture itself, “should occupy a less intrusive place.”
Yet another wrote: “A school endorsing the decision to expose its female students to this . . . violates civil rights laws.” I’ll stop quoting these petition-signers now—their words are triggering some of my own fears.
Since when is it a “civil right” not to feel disturbed by a piece of art? And who gets to decide which art we chuck? You don’t like the “Sleepwalker,” but I don’t like “Winged Victory.” It stirs scary thoughts of decapitation. Dear Louvre, please stash that headless gal in the attic.
Yes, it’s over-the-top to describe an inanimate piece of sculpture as an assault. But it’s also ridiculous to say that questioning Fischman’s judgment assaults liberty of speech as well. (They submitted a petition; they didn’t occupy the museum and hold her at gunpoint in her office until she had the sculpture removed. What the hell–it was a good effort to try to sell more copies of Skenazy’s four-year old book!) Continue Reading »
After the flamewar over rage at the current academic job market, in which the rage was redirected onto Tenured Radical for daring to question the long-term effectiveness of complaining about the behavior of one search committee, TR wrote a post suggesting that it’s time to have a conversation about the professional use of social media:
My question is this: given that social media is ubiquitous among academics, and given that our colleagues and students are sometimes justifiably angry about important things, ought we not to have some more serious discussions about what kind of speech we do — and do not — find acceptable? Should we not begin to identify what kinds of virtual conversations lead to real change and community building; and which are destructive, vengeful or personal hubris masquerading as charismatic leadership?
There are clear signs that if we do not begin to have these conversations among ourselves, others will seize the initiative and faculty will find ourselves perpetually in the position of responding to university attorneys, trustees, politicians and administrators.
Great idea, right? So far the flamewar at Tenured Radical has 190 comments (and counting!), whereas after three days the post suggesting that we all come together to figure out how to use social media productively for professional purposes has 34 comments. That’s a little clue as to how easy and fun it is to tear someone down, make assumptions about their motives and professional experiences, and generally act like a jerk in social media, whereas it’s relatively difficult to build something together.
Please note: this is not a blog post calling for civility, which I agree can be cover for preserving the power relations of the status quo. This is a blog post proposing some guiding rules for the professional use of social media for those of us in academia (but they may apply in other professions, too). As we’ve all been reminded endlessly over the past decade, The World Is Flat, and graduate students can email, Tweet, and comment on the blogs of full professors, and vice-versa. This familiarity with one another over social media has been for the most part a good thing for everyone involved, but TR is right that we need to think about formulating some community standards before they’re formulated for us by our educators and/or employers.
This blog has always been about community-building, so friends, let’s rent a barn and put on a show! At the risk of being torn to shreds myself, I’ll propose a set of guiding principles just to get the conversation going. You tell me what you think I’ve missed and where I’m wrong, and together we’ll propose a set of guiding principles for the professional use of social media. After a few days, I’ll publish our collectively revised or rewritten list of guiding principles. Continue Reading »
For the past twenty years or so, I’ve been a semi-regular donor to my private undergraduate college.* I write some pretty big checks in reunion years, and while I sometimes miss a year or two, I’ve given that institution between $1000-1,500 in the past four years. On the other hand, the pleas from my graduate institution go right into the recycling bin, as does their monthly alumni magazine. (Honestly: what a waste of paper and fuel!) When I get mail from this university, I am disgusted that this large, private research university (which benefits from all kinds of government contracts, including morally objectionable work for the Pentagon, etc.) dares to ask me (me!)for a share of my modest income.
But let’s think about which institution has done the most to help me earn that modest income: clearly, it’s my graduate institution, which granted me the Ph.D. that made me eligible to work as a tenure-track historian in the first place. Besides: my undergraduate college charged me and my parents thousands of dollars a year for the honor of matriculating, whereas I went to grad school for free! It’s true: I had a T.A.ship and two years of dissertation support, so I not only didn’t have to pay or even borrow a dime, they paid me! So why do I react with such disgust and resentment when my graduate institution asks me for money? That seems pretty unfair, doesn’t it? But the fact of the matter is that I was happy in college, and I was (mostly) unhappy in graduate school, at least in my first year there. Continue Reading »